Tundra Telegram: Books That Liege You Wanting More

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we talk about the subjects people are feuding about online, and recommend some majestic books that are without peer(age).

Unless you’ve been living under a rock – and no shade if you have (though living under a rock probably involves lots of shade, TBH) – you know that England has a new king. By extension, the Commonwealth country that the gang at Tundra Books lives in, Canada, also has a new king. (Same guy, even!)

And no matter what your personal feelings or politics are on monarchies, or this particular monarchy, or the best way for a person to clear a desk for signing important documents, you have to admit – everyone was talking about kings this week. Accordingly, we’re recommending some great picture books, chapter books, middle-grade novels, and YA titles about some of our favorite kings. And, spoiler: none of them are about Charles III.

PICTURE BOOKS

You can’t claim England and the British Commonwealth are small by any stretch, so the new king may have little in common with Bil Lepp and David T. Wenzel’s The King of Little Things. This book stars a king who is very happy to rule over an incredibly tiny kingdom, but he runs into conflict with King Normous, who wants to be Ruler of All the World. (Remind you of anyone?) This imaginative picture book is not so much a study of royalty as a tribute to the power and importance of the small things in life.

Not to be confused with the protagonist of the previous book, King Jasper is The King of Too Many Things, a picture book by Laurel Snyder and Aurore Damant. But the message of this book is similar. King Jasper can (and does) order his wizard to conjure up all sorts of cool things: dragons, robots, superheroes. But the king soon learns that wanting more can lead to less happiness. (Heavy is the head that wears the crown, they say.)

King Mouse by Cary Fagan and Dena Seiferling, among other things, is a story about finding your own royalty and when to abdicate it. In it, a little mouse finds a tiny crown in the grass and lets the other animals assume he’s king. But soon, the others find crowns that fit them and more and more of them claim to be kings and queens. But when the bear can’t find a crown big enough for his head, King Mouse decides friendship is more important than the monarchy.

A book that has special relevance in the early fall is Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s The King of Kindergarten, a book that will give kids starting kindergarten a big confidence boost as they start in a joyful new kingdom of learning and friends. But we’re sure the book has lessons for any starting royal.

Speaking of royal lessons, The Barefoot King: A Story about Feeling Frustrated by Andrew Jordan Nance and Olivia Holden, is a parable told in rhyming couplets about the unintended consequences of rash decisions and the importance of acceptance and responsibility. King Creet, who rules where everyone walks barefoot, stubs his toe on a rock, which causes a lot of pain. He orders the entire kingdom covered in leather – what could go wrong?

And for a totally different kind of kingdom – the icky kind – try Slime King by Catherine Daly and Maine Diaz. Not about Charles III (I kid, I kid – no Tower of London for me, please), the book not only tells you about Leo and his slime-making business, but also show you how to make slime and crown yourself slime royalty, to boot!

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

His domain may only be as expansive as a skating rink, but Miles Lewis: King of the Ice by Kelly Starling Lyons and Wayne Spencer is no less regal than any other king. And our titular hero holds a special place in Canadian hearts, as he must learn to ice skate in order to win a bet when his teacher leads them to an ice rink to learn about physics.

The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt (which has since been turned into a Netflix series) is a medieval fantasy that centres on an important task that sixteen-year-old Tiuri (a hopeful teenage squire) must accomplish for the king. All he has to do is deliver a secret letter across the Great Mountains. And while it may seem like something postal carriers do daily, they never have to deal with menacing forests, sinister castles, and deadly enemies who want to take that letter from him.

Though The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett is set during World War II in England, the king referenced is not George VI. Rather, the book follows two privileged children, Cecily and Jem, who are evacuated from London during the blitz to the country estate of their Uncle Peregrine. At Cecily’s request, they bring along a poor and seemingly orphaned girl named May with them. Uncle P tells them the estate lies on the ruins of Snow Castle, and regales them with a tale of royalty and betrayal that has resonance for their – and the world’s – current situation.

YOUNG ADULT

We’ve mentioned this YA series before, but anything royal is a great excuse to mention Katharine McGee’s American Royals, an alternate present in which in which George Washington was crowned king after the Revolutionary War, and readers follow Princesses Beatrice and Samantha as they court romances and vie for the crown – a crown that is currently held by a . . . you guessed it . . . king: King George IV (no relation).

Leslie Vedder’s The Bone Spindle may not feature a king, but Briar Rose is a prince (close) under a sleeping curse, waiting for a kiss to wake him in this rollicking fantasy adventure that doubles as a gender-swapped Sleeping Beauty. Unluckily for bookish treasure hunter Fi, she pricks her finger on a bone spindle (title alert), which connects her with the spirit of the cursed Briar Rose. She and her BFF Shane, a tough northern warrior who loves girls and busting skulls, soon find themselves on an adventure to break the prince’s sleeping curse.

The YA novel Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi asks an interesting ethical question for any hereditary ruler: what is someone could literally eat your sin? Taj is one such sin-eater (or aki), who slay the sin-beasts that mages will create from the corrupt elite. But when he’s called upon to live in the palace eat the sins of the royal family, Taj finds himself in the midst of a dark political conspiracy. Your favorite show The Crown could never.

And Jeff Zentner’s The Serpent King, being set in rural Tennessee, has a distinct lack of actual kings or crown jewels. But what it does have is three hardscrabble friends at the end of high school, eager to leave their town behind them – especially the guy who’s the son of a Pentecostal minister who has to handle poisonous snakes on the regular. (We could say more, but it would just spoil it. Suffice to say, Dill’s life is no Buckingham Palace.)

Cheerio, friends, and happy reading!

Tuesdays with Tundra

Tuesdays with Tundra

Tuesdays with Tundra is an ongoing series featuring our new releases. The following title is now available in stores and online!

Kumo: The Bashful Cloud
By Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Nathalie Dion
64  Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267282 | Tundra Books
Kumo is a cloud whose only wish is to float unseen. When she’s assigned cloud duty for the day, she feels overwhelmed by self-doubt and her fear of being noticed. But after learning that closing your eyes isn’t a good solution to your troubles, Kumo pulls her fluff together and does her duties – drifting, releasing rain and providing shelter – meeting some new friends along the way and inspiring the imagination (and capturing the heart) of a small daydreamer like her. Kyo Maclear’s sweetly humorous and lyrical parable about shyness, vividly brought to life by Nathalie Dion’s ethereal illustrations, is an affirmation of the pleasures of community and the confidence that can arise from friendship and visibility.

We can’t wait to see you reading this title! If you share this book online, remember to use #ReadTundra in your hashtags so that we can re-post.

2022 Canadian Children’s Book Centre Books Awards Finalists

Every year, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre celebrates the best work by Canadian creators with the CCBC Book Awards.  Congratulations to all our nominated authors and illustrators!

Shortlisted for the Arlene Barlin Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy

Hunting by Starts (A Marrow Thieves Novel)
By Cherie Dimaline
408 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269651 | Penguin Teen Canada
Years ago, when plagues and natural disasters killed millions of people, much of the world stopped dreaming. Without dreams, people are haunted, sick, mad, unable to rebuild. The government soon finds that the Indigenous people of North America have retained their dreams, an ability rumored to be housed in the very marrow of their bones. Soon, residential schools pop up—or are re-opened—across the land to bring in the dreamers and harvest their dreams. Seventeen-year-old French lost his family to these schools and has spent the years since heading north with his new found family: a group of other dreamers, who, like him, are trying to build and thrive as a community. But then French wakes up in a pitch-black room, locked in and alone for the first time in years, and he knows immediately where he is—and what it will take to escape. Meanwhile, out in the world, his found family searches for him and dodges new dangers—school Recruiters, a blood cult, even the land itself. When their paths finally collide, French must decide how far he is willing to go—and how many loved ones is he willing to betray—in order to survive.

Iron Widow
By Xiran Jay Zhao
400 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269934 | Penguin Teen Canada
The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain. When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected – she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​ To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way – and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

Shortlisted for the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award

Iron Widow
By Xiran Jay Zhao
400 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269934 | Penguin Teen Canada
The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain. When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected – she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​ To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way – and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

Shortlisted for the David Booth Children’s and Youth Poetry Award

I Talk Like a River
By Jordan Scott
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823445592 | Holiday House
When a boy who stutters feels isolated, alone, and incapable of communicating in the way he’d like, it takes a kindly father and a walk by the river to help him find his voice. Compassionate parents everywhere will instantly recognize a father’s ability to reconnect a child with the world around him. A book for any child who feels lost, lonely, or unable to fit in.

Shortlisted for the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award

On the Trapline
By David A. Robertson
Illustrated by Julie Flett
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266681  | Tundra Books
A boy and Moshom, his grandpa, take a trip together to visit a place of great meaning to Moshom. A trapline is where people hunt and live off the land, and it was where Moshom grew up. As they embark on their northern journey, the child repeatedly asks his grandfather, “Is this your trapline?” Along the way, the boy finds himself imagining what life was like two generations ago – a life that appears to be both different from and similar to his life now. This is a heartfelt story about memory, imagination, and intergenerational connection that perfectly captures the experience of a young child’s wonder as he is introduced to places and stories that hold meaning for his family.

Time Is a Flower
By Julie Morstad
56 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267541 | Tundra Books
What is time? Is it the tick tick tock of a clock, numbers and words on a calendar? It’s that, but so much more. Time is a seed waiting to grow, a flower blooming, a sunbeam moving across a room. Time is slow like a spider spinning her web or fast like a wave at the beach. Time is a wiggly tooth, or waiting for the school bell to ring, or reading a story . . . or three! But time is also morning for some and night for others, a fading sunset and a memory captured in a photo taken long ago. In this magical meditation on the nature of time, Julie Morstad shines a joyful light on a difficult-to-grasp concept for young readers and reminds older readers to see the wonders of our world, including children themselves, through the lens of time.

Shortlisted for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award

On the Trapline
By David A. Robertson
Illustrated by Julie Flett
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266681  | Tundra Books
A boy and Moshom, his grandpa, take a trip together to visit a place of great meaning to Moshom. A trapline is where people hunt and live off the land, and it was where Moshom grew up. As they embark on their northern journey, the child repeatedly asks his grandfather, “Is this your trapline?” Along the way, the boy finds himself imagining what life was like two generations ago – a life that appears to be both different from and similar to his life now. This is a heartfelt story about memory, imagination, and intergenerational connection that perfectly captures the experience of a young child’s wonder as he is introduced to places and stories that hold meaning for his family.

Tundra Telegram: Books That Deserve a Red Carpet

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we pull focus on a few subjects that have everyone reeling, and recommend some books worthy of two thumbs up (or ‘fresh’ certification, depending on your internet age).

Not only did this past weekend see more movie drama at the Venice Film Festival than the Billy Wilder classic Sunset Boulevard, today marks the start of the closer-to-home Toronto International Film Festival, which returns in a big way this year, with massive gala events and screenings across the city’s downtown.

So we’re shining the spotlight on ten films that will screen at the 2022 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival and recommending books you or your young reader might enjoy if you don’t happen to snag tickets at the box-office. Lights . . . camera . . . action!

PICTURE BOOKS

One of the most anticipated world premieres at TIFF is Devotion, a war film about the American Navy’s first Black aviator and his friendship with his white wingman that stars Jonathan Majors (who we all loved in Lovecraft Country, even though it scared us). But if you can’t make it to the movie, you can read Sprouting Wings by Louisa Jaggar, Shari Becker, and illustrated by Floyd Cooper. The book tells the story of another Black aviation pioneer, James Herman Banning, the first African American to fly across the country in 1932, over 20 years before the events of the film.

The festival’s closing night film is Dalíland, a biopic about the surrealist Spanish painter Salvador Dalí (played by Ben Kingsley) and his wife Gala, directed by Mary Harron (American Psycho). If you can’t be at the gala, you can always check out Just Being Dalí by Amy Guglielmo and Brett Helquist, a picture book that celebrates the artist’s individuality, from his melting clocks, his lobster phone, and his pet ocelot Babou. (No word yet on who plays Babou in the film!)

Music fans are losing it over TIFF’s opening night film for the Midnight Madness program, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. This embellished account of the rise of everyone’s favorite parody songwriter promises to be a good time. And while no one has written a picture book about Al yet, Rosemary Mosco and Jacob Souva created Flowers Are Pretty … Weird!, which not only shares a similar title, but also shares a love of the strange, the funny, and the floral (be it real plants or Hawaiian shirts).

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

Though it’s not premiering at TIFF, Martin McDonagh’s new film The Banshees of Inisherin, starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, has been generating a lot of buzz on the festival circuit. Set on a remote Irish island, it illustrates what happens when one friend decides to abruptly end a longtime relationship. It’s not a perfect pairing, but the story reminds us a bit of the depiction of friendship in Wolfie and Fly by Cary Fagan and Zoe Si. Renata Wolfman (‘Wolfie’) doesn’t see much point to friends. But friendship finds her in the form of Livingston Flott (‘Fly’), a weird and loquacious boy Wolfie doesn’t like much at first, but then finds it hard to live without.

Another world premiere at TIFF is The Menu, a satire about high-end cuisine from one of the creators of Succession and starring Anya Taylor-Joy. While it’s not quite a satire, Alice Fleck’s Recipes for Disaster by Rachelle Delaney, is a comical book set in the world of food, as Alice must work with her culinary historian father to compete in a cooking reality show – while simultaneously solving a delicious behind-the-scenes mystery!

We’ll never say ‘no’ to a new Nicolas Cage film. And Butcher’s Crossing, a Western in which he plays a buffalo hunter in the 1870s who convinces an Ivy league grad to join him in a dangerous expedition, is on our “must-see list.” But if we can’t get a ticket, we’ll read R. J. Palacio’s similarly ambitious middle-grade Western, Pony. Though twelve-year-old Silas is no Ivy league student, he is drawn out on a dangerous journey – to find his kidnapped father, rather than hunt bison.

TIFF will also host the world premiere of Wendell & Wild, an animated collaboration between Jordan Peele (Get Out) and Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas), in which demon brothers team with a goth teen to defeat their demonic dad. All these Satanic high school hijinks make us think of The Mystery of the Meanest Teacher: A Johnny Constantine Graphic Novel by Ryan North and Derek Charm. The book is a middle-grade take on the comic book occult detective, in which Salem tweens John and Anna (with some help from a friendly demon Etrigan) use their occult powers to uncover if his homeroom teacher is really a witch. And, like the film, destined to be a goth teen cultural touchstone.

YOUNG ADULT

Another premiere at TIFF is Bros, written by and starring Billy Eichner, one of the first big-budget queer Hollywood rom-coms. Bobby is a cynical podcaster who writes off boring (but good-looking) Aaron, until they find something special blossoms in this movie that plays with the tropes of rom-coms. If the idea of unexpected romance and play with rom-com conventions through a queer lens is your thing, you’ll want to read Kevin Van Whye’s Nate Plus One, a friends-to-lovers story that takes place in the lead-up to a Johannesburg wedding.

Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is back in Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, which has its premiere at TIFF. The Southern detective has a new case and a new cast of suspects, all hiding their own mysteries, but this time they’re on a remote Greek island. Want a twisty mystery that’s also the second in a series AND set on an island? How about Family of Liars by E. Lockhart, in which readers return to the Sinclair family’s private island (made so popular in We Were Liars) and uncover the secrets of a previous generation. (If only there had been teen Benoit Blanc on hand to sort things out!)

Finally, we can’t believe we’ve waited this long to gush about The Woman King, the new film by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball) and starring Viola Davis. Davis stars as Nansica in this true story of the Agojie, an all-female military regiment charged with protecting the African Kingdom of Dahomey (in what is now known as Benin). The warrior women in Namina Forna’s The Gilded Ones may be fictional (and have certain magical powers), but the alaki in this fantasy novel share a few commonalities with the subject of this highly anticipated film, and were based somewhat on the stories Forna learned growing up in nearby Sierra Leone.

See you at the movies – AND the bookstore!

Tuesdays with Tundra

Tuesdays with Tundra

Tuesdays with Tundra is an ongoing series featuring our new releases. The following titles are now available in stores and online!

Ghostlight
By Kenneth Oppel
400 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735272330 | Puffin Canada
The story of the tragic death of sixteen-year-old Rebecca Strand and her lighthouse keeper father is just an elaborate tale Gabe tells tourists for his summer job on the Toronto Island. Or so he thought. When his ghost tours awaken Rebecca’s spirit, Gabe is drawn into a world far darker than any ghost story he’s ever heard. Rebecca reveals that she and her father were connected to The Order, a secret society devoted to protecting the world from “the wakeful and wicked dead”—malevolent spirits like Viker, the ghost responsible for their deaths. But now the Order has disappeared and Viker is growing even stronger, and he’ll stop at nothing to wreak chaos and destruction on the living. Gabe and his friends – both living and dead – must find a way to stop Viker before they all become lost souls.

New in Paperback:

Fairy ScienceFairy Science
By Ashley Spires
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735264618 | Tundra Books
Esther the fairy doesn’t believe in magic. But fairies are all about magic, despite Esther’s best efforts to reveal the science of their world. No matter how she and her bird, Albert, explain that rainbows are refracted light rather than a path to gold, or that mist is water evaporating rather than an evil omen, or the importance of the scientific method, her fairymates would rather just do magic. So when the other fairies’ solution to helping a dying tree is to do a mystical moonlight dance, Esther decides to take it upon herself to resuscitate the tree . . . with the scientific method, some hypothesizing, a few experiments and the heady conclusion that trees need sunlight to live! But while Esther manages to save the tree, she can’t quite change the minds of her misguided fairymates . . . or can she?

If I Had a Gryphon
By Vikki VanSickle
Illustrated by Cale Atkinson
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Paperback
ISBN 9781774880913 | Tundra Books
Sam just got a hamster for a pet. But the hamster is kind of boring . . . he just eats and sleeps and gets his shavings wet. Inspired by her book of mythological creatures, Sam longs for a more exciting pet. But she soon realizes that taking care of these magical beasts might not be as wonderful as she thought. Sasquatches are messy, unicorns are shy, hippogriffs scare the dogs at the dog park, and having a fire extinguisher handy at all times makes dragons seem like an awful lot of work. In the end, Sam realizes that her hamster is a pretty sweet and safe pet . . . or is he? If I Had a Gryphon is a raucous rhyming read-aloud about fantastical beasts in everyday situations – and the increasingly beleaguered heroine who has to deal with them.

The Fabled Stables: Trouble with Tattle-Tails
By Jonathan Auxier
Illustrated by Olga Demidova
96 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735267770 | Puffin Canada
Auggie was just like most other boys, except in one way. Auggie had a job. Auggie worked in the Fabled Stables – a magical place full of one-of-a-kind creatures. Sometimes the Fabled Stables changes to make room for a new beast. The whole place would shake, and then Auggie would find a new stall that led to a beast somewhere in the Wide World. It was Auggie’s job to go out and rescue that beast from danger. In this second installment, a new stall appears with a sign: Tattle-Tail. Although this doesn’t sound like a very friendly thing, Auggie knows it’s his job to help. Peering in the new stall, he can see a little village with a tall tower in the middle. The Tattle-Tail is somewhere in that village. Together with Willa the Wisp and Fen, the stick-in-the-mud, Auggie makes his way to the village, where he’s surprised to discover not one, but many Tattle-Tails – all of the villagers have a talking tail attached to them, tails that tattle on their humans, blabbing all their secrets out loud. Auggie and Willa try everything they can to get the tails off the villagers, but all they manage to do is get tails of their own!

We can’t wait to see you reading these titles! If you share these books online, remember to use #ReadTundra in your hashtags so that we can re-post.